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Posts Tagged ‘Cheryl Strayed’

The Book Jam’s Official 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

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We got off easy in our last post by recapping “Pages in the Pub” and publishing holiday gift ideas from other bibliophiles.  Now it’s time for our take on the season. This post is focused on what we think are some of THE VERY BEST PICKS for the readers on your list.  So sit back and enjoy the literary ride – great holiday gift ideas are only a click away.

And just in case you need any more convincing, now might be a good time to remind you why books make such wonderful presents. Here are our top five reasons in descending order:

5) With a book you can never buy the wrong size! One size fits all.

4) Books don’t need batteries, won’t break, and don’t require troublesome instructions for assembly.

3) They are oh so easy to wrap.

2) Because “curling up on the sofa with your iphone” just doesn’t sound as cozy as “curling up on the sofa with a good book.”

1) And finally, the number one reason why books make the best presents: How amazing is it to give a gift that has a whole new world inside of it?

Please Note:  While most of these selections are 2012 titles, we’ve also listed a few “timeless” treasures as well as some less expensive paperback selections published in 2012. And yes, this list is looooong, but there are so many great books to give, why limit ourselves – or your giving options? We’ve kept many of our categories from last year, some with a Vermont “twist” and added some new ones as well.

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For the Curious Reader, the Style Maven, or the Cerebral Type in Your Life – Books that Make for Interesting Conversations around a Woodstove:

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Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything by Randy Cohen (2012) – We LOVE the original ethicist from the New York Times Magazine.  We love his humor. And, we love his takes on sticky situations, even when we don’t agree.  Get this, open it randomly and use Mr. Cohen’s answers to the submitted questions to start conversations about how you and your friends and family would handle each situation and others you come up with on your own. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount (2012) – This book answers what books would favorite authors/other famous folks include if their choices were limited?  It causes the reader to ask, what books would you include in your home if you could only have so many books? Why? What would your bookshelf look like?  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Cool Shed: An Inspirational Guide to Stylish Hideaways and Workspaces by Jane Field (2012) – This is a wonderful, inspirational little book for those fascinated by how to make the most out of small spaces. Or it would make the perfect gift to someone dreaming of downsizing as it’s full of ideas for how to create a whole world, an ambience, in just a few square feet.~Lisa Cadow

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life by Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – Who knew advice columnists could write like this? And these aren’t just your one paragraph “Dear Annie” responses to life’s difficult questions. These are roadmaps, gems of responses considered from every angle and reflected back with grace and beauty. This book took our breath away and then gave us back enough back to laugh and cry. You will want to keep a copy of this on your bedside table to help you navigate life a little better. Written by Wild’s Cheryl Strayed you know you’re in the hands of a master writer. Perfect for anyone looking for insight into the “wild” ride we call life. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For the Artists Among Us (And There Are Many in These Here Mountains):

 

SnApp Shots:How to take great pictures with smart phones and apps by Adam Bronkhorst (2012) – We didn’t know we needed this book until we saw it on the shelves at the Norwich Bookstore.  But, we DO need it  – as bloggers, as iphone users, as parents – since it is packed full of helpful tips and clever images for inspiration. We are ready to pull out our phones and start getting results today – but first we have to buy it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Just My Type: A book about fonts by Simon Garfield (2011) - How to look at the written word just a little bit differently. Type choice, their histories and the effects they have on readers come to life with this fascinating, page-turning read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special by James Sturm and Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost (2012) – This sequel to the hit Adventures in Cartooning, continues the authors’ efforts to make cartooning accessible to all. While I must admit I like the original book a bit more, buy this sequel for anyone who could use a new Christmas tale and the original for your favorite budding artist. ~ Lisa Christie

We Don’t Know How We Missed These – Books Published Prior to 2012: 

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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (2007) – In this year of all things British (Queen’s Jubilee, The London Olympics) it was wonderful to discover this gem.  Author Bennet’s (imagined) Queen discovers, for the first time, the joys and sorrows of reading, reminding the reader of this as well. A superb book about what books offer – if we could have a literary “mascot” at the Book Jam, this would be it. For all those who understand the power and life-changing aspects of reading! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2009) – While the topics are varied, ultimately these essays, often simultaneously poignant and funny, are about the questions one encounters in trying to live a life.  Read this if you are questioning things yourself — his insight and experiences might propel you in an unknown direction. ~ Lisa Christie

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007) – While this tale of the Holocaust as narrated by Death is now required reading for many high schoolers, you should read it because it will change you, because it is well written, and because it reminds you in the heart of the worst darkness there is hope and there are good people. I finished the last six pages or so with tears pouring down my face.  Now I am sad only because I can never read this again for the first time. This may seem like a strange holiday gift, but the recipient will be richer for receiving it from you. ~ Lisa Christie

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010) – I had been meaning to read this for a while and managed to do so when my friend Stephanie loaned me her copy. This work of nonfiction reads like a novel, and does an amazing job telling the extraordinary story of medicine, medical ethics, and th woman responsible for it all — Henrietta Lacks. ~ Lisa Christie

Happens Every Day: An all too true story by Isabel Gillies (2009) – At first glance this may not seem like an ideal “gift” book and only an excellent and engrossing read, perfect for those who crave the well-written memoir. But, actually, it might be perfect for someone who’s gone through a difficult breakup and would find solace and understanding in another’s experience. Gillies recounts the year of her divorce, how it hit her like an oncoming train, and how she weathered it all with humor, good friends and family.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet by David Mitchell (2010) – I must admit that I had to persevere through the first 50 pages, but once I did I was hooked. Although reading it was often like watching a train wreck – you knew horrible things were coming but could not look away – this is a fascinating look at Japanese life and Dutch trading in the 18th century and human love.  ~ Lisa Christie (Seconded by Lisa Cadow)

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (May 2011) – The other Lisa discovered this gem long ago.  And once I finally read it, I loved this novel about three sisters and their lives as twenty-somethings after they end up living with their parents again due to some failures in their post-collegiate lives and their Mom’s cancer. When you finish reading you just feel good.  Bonus – the Shakespeare references. ~ Lisa Christie

For Men Who Have Enough Flannel Shirts, but Not Enough Good Fiction:

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Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison(2012) – It can be challenging to find good reads for the men in your life but this year has provided an incoming tide of excellent titles, including Evison’s new work. This book has tragic components – the main character has lost much, including his children – but things look up (slightly) when he finds employment as caregiver to 19-year-old boy with a degenerative condition. As only the most talented of writers can, he finds beauty and comedy in his characters’ lives and even adds in a wonderful road trip to boot. Excellent.  ~ Lisa Cadow

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2012) – This book strikes me as being an adult version of A Separate Piece by John Knowles. Short, sparse, reflective and to the point, Barnes tells the story of a man making sense of an incident earlier in his life and understanding his actions from a more mature perspective. ~ Lisa Cadow

Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012) – This was a surprising find. Though Dog Stars is  about a man and his dog surviving in postapocalyptic Colorado, this novel is really a love story. Heller writes masterfully about relationships, meaning, hunting, nature, and, yes, love. Really. ~ Lisa Cadow

House of the Hunted by Mark Mills (2012) – This could be described as Maisie Dobbs with an edge, but that might turn off some potential audiences for this great read. So what it has: a strong main character – Tom, a young British Secret Service Agent who has retired to the coast of France; a great setting; a handful of Russians; some Italians; a few sexual escapades; and history of Europe between the two world wars. A great thriller. ~ Lisa Christie

Smart Lady Fiction:

   

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012) – One of my favorite novels of 2012, if not the favorite.  Here, Ms. Mantel continues her chronicle of the life of Thomas Cromwell. To help the King bring down Ms. Boleyn, Mr. Cromwell must play dangerous games with both his enemies and his friends. Because this account of Queen Anne’s downfall is told from the perspective of Mr. Cromwell, the famous story surprises you. For those of you who have not yet discovered Ms. Mantel’s stories of Cromwell, start with Wolf Hall and know this fascinating sequel awaits. ~ Lisa Christie

Light Between the Oceans by ML Stedman (2012) – As its title suggests, this story takes place far out to sea on a remote Australian island where Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabelle are stationed. Everything changes one day when a rowboat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Having tried for years to conceive a child, this offering from the sea seems to be the answer to Isabelle’s prayers. Despite Tom’s reservations, she convinces him they should claim the baby as their own. They name her Lucy and the drama is set in motion as the reader learns of the effect that decision will have on many families as well as on future generations. ~Lisa Cadow

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012) – With poignancy and beautiful prose, Brunt tells the coming of age story of fourteen year-old June who’s grieving the loss of her beloved uncle Finn – a famous painter who’s recently died from a mysterious illness – who was the only one who ever really understood her. Set in the late 1980’s and full of cultural references to that era, June tries to continue on with a “teenagerly” (we may have coined a new word here) existence in Westchester Country – studying, fighting with her sister, going to the occasional party, listening to the “wolves” howling in the woods  – but it is only through a most unlikely friendship in New York City, with a friend of her uncle’s, a young man named Toby, that she finds solace. This is a book about love, loss, acceptance, sisters, family, art, and what is means to truly care for someone~ Lisa Cadow

The Cove by Ron Rash (2012) – This haunting tale about the power of prejudice and of love may be an unusual holiday pick, but trust us. Set during in a dark cove in the rural Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, the book follows the life of Laurel and her brother Hank, newly returned from the war in France.  The story begins as they offer shelter to a mute wandering musician. Due to abundant local superstitions about the Cove and Laurel’s birthmark, a visitor is eerily unique and of course tragedy strikes. However, you will enjoy the story that gets you to the tragedy and the small piece of hope you are left with. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For Fast-Paced, Insightful Reads:

   

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters (2012) – Please read and enjoy this. It has romance, gorgeous scenery, intelligence, all interwoven in a tale of the lives, loves, choices, and losses of a cast of characters as diverse as an Italian hotel owner living in a town on the Italian coast so small Cinque Terra doesn’t claim it, a lovely American actress, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and their filming of Cleopatra, a few young men overcoming addictions, and a modern-day woman trying to figure out when her life will begin and many more. The story jumps from 1962 to today and back again and back again, each time unveiling another layer of connections and dreams. A tale that ultimately shows that your life emerges from your choices. ~ Lisa Christie

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipman (June 2012) – A well-written book about the lead up to a wedding on an east coast island with humor, insight and thoughtful prose. Although, we must say we were a bit depressed when we finished. Question – will anyone ever write a book about WASPs that makes them look good? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)  – Just when you think you know what’s going on in this thriller, think again. Gone Girl will keep you on your toes – and out of commission since you won’t be able to put it down – until you turn the very last page. Meet Amy and Nick, a seemingly golden Manhattan couple (Amy with her Harvard degree and Nick with his good looks and writer’s talent), trapped in a marriage that’s gone terribly wrong. The story starts with Amy’s sudden disappearance from the house they’re renting in Missouri. All eyes turned to Nick as the clues start pointing in his direction. The story is told from Amy and Nick’s alternating points of view so the reader learns about their relationship from its romantic beginnings to its present difficult place. If you’re a fan of Tana French, you’ll appreciate Flynn’s story telling style and mastery of the psychological thriller genre. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Writing on the Wall by WD Wetherell (2012) – Three different women from three different eras inhabit a New England house. Each is trying to deal with the hand life has recently dealt them. Along the way, the latter two residents discover the stories of the woman(en) who came before them. A gem of a book that shows the power of words and stories. ~ Lisa Christie

Mysteries for When You Just Have to Have One:

   

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James (2011) – OK this is just clever writing and truly fun for any fan of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, English period pieces, and/or PD James. In it, Ms. James imagines Elizabeth Bennet’s life years after she has become Mrs. Darcy and provides a murder to complicate their wedded bliss. Enjoy the writing and revisiting characters from Pride and Prejudice that you may or may not remember so well. Better yet re-read Pride and Prejudice first. ~ Lisa Christie

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker (August 2012) – In this latest installment of Walker’s Bruno series, Bruno must learn to work with the new magistrate – a young woman whose need to prove herself outpaces her experience – as PETA protests against foie gras, a staple of the local economy, come to town. A simultaneous problem with Basque terrorists brings back Bruno’s former flame and other issues. Add some information about our species’ origins from an archeological dig and you will find your self learning while being entertained by this gifted writer of thrillers. ~ Lisa Christie

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (2012) – The latest Inspector Gamanche mysteries once again planted me firmly in her continuing tale of Gamanche and his team of investigators. This time we all inhabited a monastery where a monk has been murdered.  One of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve read in a while emerged on the final page – a Montagnais tale (Native Canadians) of two wolves inside of a man: one wolf wants the man to be courageous patient and kind, one wants the man to be fearful and cruel.  The one the man feeds wins. ~ Lisa Christie

For the Mountain Man or Mountain Woman (A Perfect Pairing for the Outdoor Enthusiast):

WILD: From lost to found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite. Since I’ve enthused so much about this already, I’m just including a link to my previous review. One of the best books of 2012. ~ Lisa Cadow

Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail foreword by Bill Bryson (2012) – A coffee table book filled with gorgeous pictures that will provide any inspiration needed to get out and see some of the many things this amazing trail has to offer.  Great for those winter days when you want to dream a bit about summer and all things green.  Perfect for the hikers in your life.  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Poetry for Everyone:

 

Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove (2012) – In a gorgeous volume, Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U .S. Poet  Laureate, introduces readers to her selection of the most significant and compelling  poems of the past hundred years. Whether you agree with her choices or not, you will, at the very least, enjoy some of these poems. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey (2006) – This Pulitzer Prize winning volume of poems was my introduction to our Poet Laureate. In Native Guard I found a moving testimony to the complications of life in “The South” and of being bi-racial in the USA. Her words are perfect and her willingness to tackle the personal so publicly is inspiring and fearless. ~ Lisa Christie

What to Make of It by Pamela Harrison (2012) – Our fellow Norwich resident Ms. Harrison continues a wonderful string of books of prose poems about life.  Yes, life.  This latest collection is a love letter to her husband. Buy it to remind yourself that love has its bad days too and that is OK, buy it for someone you love to remind them love is amazing. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Who Adore All things France:  

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French Flair: Modern Vintage Interiors by Sebastian Siraudeau (2012) –  A view into the homes and interiors of this ageless, timeless, stylish country. ~ Lisa Cadow

Eugene Atget: Old Paris (2011) – For inspiration that comes from beautiful photos of gorgeous sights in the most beautiful of cities. This will bring tears to a Francophile’s eyes.  Great to linger over with a cafe au lait. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart  (2012) by Janelle McCulloch (2012) – Take a tour, arrondissement by arrondissement with a masterful guide. You just might want to pack it for your next trip. I know I will.~ Lisa Cadow

For People Who Like to Cook Up a Culinary (Snow) Storm:

The main course of our cookbook picks for 2012 was already posted in November.  But for those of you who can’t get enough, we have another little “snack”:

Dolci: Italy’s Sweets by Francine Segan (2012) – Absolutely scrumptious. How would you like to bake an Olive Oil Apple Pie? Or perhaps whip up a batch of Bourbon caramel Sauce? A Fig, Rosemary and Honey Foccacia? A baker and dessert lover’s choice with a sweet, Italian twist. ~ Lisa Cadow

For People With A Subscription to the New Yorker:

 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012) – This work is hard to read. It opens with a child hiding, naked under a pile of garbage, from the police for a crime he did not commit, and continues with harrowing details of life in a Mumbai slum. But it is important to keep reading as it effectively puts faces on the dilemmas of global change, and most importantly brings visibility to the invisible – the poor. ~ Lisa Christie

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey – US Poet Laureate Ms. Trethewey combines prose and poetry to describe the Gulf Coast, bookmarked by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina. The combination of the community’s and her family’s own stories is haunting and informative. And this book reminds people that Katrina affected so so so much more than New Orleans. ~ Lisa Christie

For People Who Enjoy Living Vicariously Through Other People’s Memories:

  

 

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – Through laugh-out-loud and sometimes painful humor,  Mr. Thurston, of Jack and Jill Politics and The Onion, speaks about serious and important aspects about race in this country and does so with intelligence and compassion.  And, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am appreciative of the source that started that thinking.  Oh, and did I mention this book is funny? Buy it for someone who needs a laugh, or who wants/needs to think a bit about race and growing up.  ~ Lisa Christie

Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia (2011) – Just out in paperback, this memoir chronicles what it takes for one man to become a successful stand up comedian (This American Life, Thurber Prize for American Humor). Read this to remember (or discover) what growing up in the 80s and 90s really meant, and how to be funny in the midst of poverty and often while in pain. ~ Lisa Christie

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011) – While enjoying her amazing humor and self-deprecating outline of her life to date, I irritated my poor husband by laughing out loud when he was trying to sleep.  In my defense, I fell asleep with this book on my chest and woke to him having stolen it and laughing out loud.  Pick it up, read and laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

How to be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran (2011) – Every sentence in this raucous, side-splitting book offers exquisite insight  into subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Moran has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. ~Lisa Cadow

Travels with Epicurus  by Daniel Klein (2012) – Though this book is written by a seventy-year-old man searching for insight into how to age well, this pocket-sized read offers wisdom for all ages. Klein travels solo to an island in Greece to reflect on the words of  great philosophers and their ideas about aging while observing the older villagers around him. A travel book, a memoir, a philosophical inquiry. Lovely.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Literary Gifts for your host/administrative assistant/coworkers/boss

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New Yorker Puzzle series – The New Yorker has turned hundreds of covers into great puzzles.  Some are 500 pieces, some 1000, but all are fun for anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Spot It – A game that everyone in the family will enjoy. And, which to be honest the younger you are the better you play; so kids will enjoy beating grandma at this card game. It comes in many versions – classic, sports etc…  Find one for the person in your life who has everything, but needs some fun.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For Families to Read Together During the First Snow Storm:

  

Andrew Drew and Drew by B. Saltzberg (2012) – Reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, but not quite.  A clever book about the pleasures of drawing and doing what you love.  And, a great reminder for kids that what you love will be there the next day right where you left it, so you should go to sleep (PLEASE). ~ Lisa Christie

A Perfect Day by Carin Berger (2012) – While the picture style is completely different, the plot reminded me on one of my favorite picture books ever – Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Try this new version the reminds you how great a snowy day can be. ~ Lisa Christie

Oliver by Birgitta Sif (2012) – A fun reminder that making a new friend = a VERY GOOD day. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Beyond Tonka Trucks and Tea Parties but Not Yet Ready for Teen Topics:

     

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (2012) – I am one of the few readers I know who did not love Ms. Stead’s award-winning first book.  I hope that makes my recommendation for this book stronger.  A special gem of a book in which a boy faces a few of life’s challenges with wisdom and aplomb: bullies, moving, a father who lost his job, a mother in a hospital, and a name – Georges (with an s) that not everyone appreciates. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – In a faraway land, a nobleman purchases four orphans in a scheme to set one and only one of them on the throne as the long-lost Prince Jaron. The catch — the ones not chosen will probably not survive the “training”. When you add a clever housemaid as a friend, a castle with secret passageways, and the fact the entire scheme can have them all killed for treason, you have a great adventure for elementary school readers and the adults who love them.  ~ Lisa Christie

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by SS Taylor (2012) – Make way for the Wests – Zander, Kit and MK – three orphans living in the near future where computers and electricity have failed, and who must lay low so that government officials miss the fact that they no longer have adult supervision. The plot thickens when a mysterious stranger finds Kit and hands him half of one of their father’s old maps, and the trio sets off to discover why this map is so important.  Get out your atlas and read! ~ Lisa Christie

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke (2012) – When Jon is sent against his wishes to boarding school, he discovers he is a kid marked by an old family curse to die at the hands of a ghost. When he befriends Ella, hope for belaying this curse emerges.  Of course, first he has to learn how to summon a ghost knight, earn the right to be a page and find many, many ways to successfully break curfew. A GREAT adventure for elementary school readers. ~ Lisa Christie

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (2012) – By viewing slavery, plantation life and President Jefferson through the eyes of three of his young slaves, Ms. Bradley personalizes slavery and addresses the particular controversies of Mr. Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. None of the viewpoints are simple, and all of their feelings are complicated.  A great book to read with your children to start discussions about slavery, and how people can simultaneously act in honorable and dishonorable ways. ~ Lisa Christie

My Pop-up World Atlas by Anita Generi (2012) – Colorful maps, interactive pieces and small facts make this book fun for your future world travelers. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Tales For Teens Who Still  Drink Hot Chocolate and Spend Stormy Days Reading and Aren’t Quite Ready for Adult Fare:

 

Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan (2012) – Jane Eyre fans rejoice!, the Gothic novel has been revived in the form of a book for pre-teens and teens.  Kami Glass lives in a quaint town in the English countryside with a loving mother and father and two energetic younger brothers.  All is idyllic really, with one small exception – she has lived with a boy’s voice in her head for as long as she can remember.  Then, one day the voice in her head becomes too real to be comfortable.  Oh, did I mention it is funny? ~ Lisa Christie

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012) – OK, this is a book about cancer, sort of.  More importantly, it is a book about friendship.  Read it and weep. Basically, this is another superb novel by John Green.  ~ Lisa Christie

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And so it was on a snowy night last week in late November that sixty people from the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire gathered in the wine cellar of the Norwich Inn to talk about some of 2012’s great books. Great books for gifting, great books for curling up with on the couch, great books for sharing with friends. It was, in a word, well, great.

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This special event, the second incarnation of “Pages in The Pub”-  an evening designed by “The Book Jam” (and this time sponsored by The Vermont Community Foundation) to gather people at a local inn  to discuss literature – raised over $1,300 for Vermont Libraries. We heard suggestions from booksellers and bibliophile alike who discussed titles that would make the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. They covered everything from engrossing reads for the memoir enthusiast, picks for the man who “has enough flannel shirts but not enough fiction,”  to mouth-watering tomes for people who like to “cook up a culinary snowstorm.”

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Below is a list of all twenty books discussed during the evening along with its own special six word review.  (Yes, we limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each is linked to The Norwich Bookstore where you can learn more about these treasures. You’ll also notice that our picks are divided into rather specific categories. These are ones that we created last year as part of our annual “best of” list for  The Book Jam blog; our 2012 “best of” edition of the Book Jam will be published separately next week so stay tuned.  And, just a small technicality: some of the books below were first published in 2011, but are new to paperback in 2012, so we counted them.

Our wonderful, dynamic, thoughtful presenters included:

  • Penny McConnel, Owner, Norwich Bookstore
  • Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library
  • Arline Rotman, President of the Norwich Women’s Club (and retired Massachusetts judge and current family law consultant)
  • Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie, curators of the Book Jam Blog

We’d like to thank the our panelists, The Norwich Inn, The Norwich Bookstore, all those who attended, and the Vermont Community Foundation for making this evening possible.

So sit back and read on for ideas —- holiday shopping help is on its way.

Cookbooks: For people who like to cook up a culinary snow storm:

   

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Cook from this all winter long.

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman, selected by Penny McConnel (2012)- Yum yum yum delicious delicious delicious.

The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – Cuisines, cultures, history—delicious  reader’s cookbook!

Non-fiction or reference book or poetry: For people who like to think and chat while sitting by the wood stove:

 

Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds, selected by Penny McConnel (2012) – Divorce through a wife’s compassionate eyes.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – History that reads like a novel.

Memoirs: For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories:

 

 Wild by Cheryl Strayed, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Intimate. Honest. Difficult. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

Field Guide to Now by Cristina Rosalie  (2012) selected by Beth Reynolds – Little books can change your life.

Adult Fiction: For a woman who only has time for the best fiction:

  

Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow – Australia 1920s. Baby washes ashore. Decisions.

The News From Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story by J. Wickersham (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Seven delicious short stories that deliver.

The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morton (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Puzzles from the past demand solving.

Adult fiction: For a man who has enough flannel shirts but not enough good fiction:

     

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Beauty, grace in Colorado despite apocalypse. Really.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds (2012) – It’s so much more than music.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011), selected by Arline Rotman – Youth, ambition, family, friendships—peripherally baseball.

Coffee table book or literary gifts for your favorite hosts/hostesses/co-workers:

   

Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Inspirational beauty found in unexpected places.

Jerusalem: A cookbook by Ottolenghi & Tamim (2012), selected by Arline Rotman – A beautiful book that I covet!

AN ADULT BONUS PICK

 End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie – Mother. Son. Many books. Little time.

BONUS SELECTIONS FOR KIDS

   

Picture Books: For families to read together during snow storms

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents by Susan Katz, selected by Lisa Christie – Humorous poems. Facts. Presidential Inauguration soon.

Books for young readers (ages 8-12): Those beyond Tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, selected by Lisa Christie – First friend helps end family curse.

Books for your favorite High Schooler: Tales for teens who still like to drink hot chocolate and spend snowy days reading, but who are not quite ready for adult themes

Rush for the Gold: An Olympic Mystery by John Feinstein, selected by Lisa Christie (2012) – Gold Medals. Teen Detectives. Great Series.

 

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Q: What did one book say to the other?

A: I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page!

Here at the The Book Jam we are seriously on the same page of laughing and literature since for the past few weeks both Lisas have been helping to coordinate Laughing Matters: A Celebration of Books and Humor, a series of events benefitting our stellar local library. We are proud and energized  to be a part of Laughing Matters because literature, laughing, and libraries are all high on the list of things that matter to us MOST.

In honor of this theme we’ve chosen to highlight some of our favorite, recently published laugh-out-loud books and some others that just make us feel better and smile. Many were discussed last night during a Laughing Matters event featuring one of the funniest people we know – local comedian Cindy Pierce (if you don’t know who she is yet, you will!). An amazing storyteller, college speaker, and educator for women – and men – on issues of sexuality, she had the crowd rolling as she delivered a “book report” of sorts riffing on some of her favorite humor titles  such as , How to Be a Woman, Bossypants and Sleepwalk with Me, all of which are reviewed below.

So, on today of all days: Go forth, read, laugh, frequent your local library, and VOTE!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – First, Lisa Christie: I have not yet read WILD, but it is now on the top of my list due to this gem of a book.  This collection of essays of questions and answers from Ms. Strayed’s Dear Sugar internet advice column is lovely.  You will tear up, laugh, smile a lot and feel better knowing someone like this exists in the world.  Bonus – you might pick up some great advice for your own life (basically it all boils down to the words — to do better, you are going to have to try (p 146)).

And, Lisa Cadow chiming in at this point in the review to give a double plug for this wise, thoughtful, deep, moving, surprising, hopeful, and -yes- funny book. Who knew advice columnists could write like this? And these aren’t just your one paragraph “Dear Annie” responses to life’s difficult questions. These are roadmaps, gems of responses considered from every angle and reflected back with grace and beauty. This book took my breath away and then gave me enough back to laugh and cry. You will want to keep a copy of this book on your bedside table to help you navigate life a little better. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011)- I usually avoid books by celebrities (one exception being listening to and enjoying Michael J. Fox read his first book – Lucky Man). So, it took awhile to read this one, and I am glad I finally did.  While enjoying her amazing humor and self-deprecating outline of her life to date, I irritated my poor husband by laughing out loud when he was trying to sleep.  Turn about is fair play however — I fell asleep with this book on my chest and woke to him having stolen it and waking me with his laughter.  This exchange among spouses offers conclusive proof females can be funny (a theme from the book) and that this book is good no matter what your gender.  Pick it up, read and laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (2012). Don’t let the cover of this masterpiece put you off (I don’t know, for me I felt a little like I might be setting out to read the memoirs of Cruella Deville – not that that would be a bad thing but not necessarily what I was looking for). Every sentence in this book has exquisite insight and side-splitting humor to offer about subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Except Moran, in addition to adding her raucous, offbeat sense of British humor to the whole affair, is also generously sharing with readers the story of her life, which certainly wasn’t a walk in Hyde Park. Growing up in a family of eight with a small income, an even smaller house, and struggling with issues of obesity, puberty  was challenging for Moran. She is a wise woman, though, as becomes clear through her deft telling of this story. She also has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. You may not agree with everything she says but boy – I mean, girl! – does she have a lot to say and say it well she does.   One of my favorite humor books and memoirs of the 2012. ~Lisa Cadow

 Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia (2010) –  Just out in paperback, this memoir chronicles what it takes for one man to become a successful stand up comedian (This American Life, Thurber Prize for American Humor). In Mr. Birbiglia’s case, his path to stardom includes unique make out sessions as a teen, parents he loves but does not understand, avoidance of drugs, and a tendency to sleepwalk which lands him in unusual spaces. Read this to remember (or discover) what growing up in the 80s and 90s really meant, and how to be funny in the midst of poverty and often while in pain. One other note, a neighboring teen found this insightful as he navigates his life’s choices as well. So, the appeal of this book is multi-generational. ~ Lisa Christie

And some more don’t miss humor writers:

Bill Bryson – Only Bill Bryson can make boy scouts being eaten by bears funny.  Some of our favorite titles are:  A Walk in the Woods – about walking the AT, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself – about being in the US after 20 years abroad. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Listening to ANYTHING by David Sedaris  – for example, Me Talk Pretty One Day, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Holidays on Ice. His delivery is impeccible, his voice is so individual, and at times, his material makes you stop breathing you are laughing so hard. ~ Lisa Christie

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Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents take note: almost all of these are titles for young readers. We wanted to highlight some great books that you can pack in your favorite child’s trunk for camp or send them along in a care package and know they’ll be the just right for reading with a flashlight! AND, there’s one bonus “grown up” pick tucked in at the end, the phenomenal Wild by Cheryl Strayed, chosen with the adult adventurer in mind.

Ahhh glorious summertime.

Sunny days, starry nights, afternoons spent lounging by the swimming hole, hikes through the hills, twilight marshmallow roasts, and then, finally, the sound of zipping up the tent before settling into a sleeping bag with a good book and a flashlight.  In order to best recognize this all-too-brief  but very particular reading season, we decided to spotlight books that capture the adventurous spirit of young summer campers.

Our criteria: books that are easy to read with a flashlight, that aren’t too sad, and don’t make you long for home  (read homesick). Most importantly we chose titles that empower the young reader. We looked for books that show kids (and in one case, an adult) doing exciting, brave things on their own – or with wise adults leading the way. Our model – The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konisberg – one of our very, very favorite books from childhood.

Recent releases for the Elementary School Aged:

 Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke (2012) – Jon is reluctantly sent away to boarding school where he quickly discovers he is a kid marked by a centuries-old family curse to die at the hands of a ghost.  When he meets Ella and her ghost-expert Grandmother, hope for ending this curse begins. Of course, first he has to learn how to summon a ghost knight, earn the right to be a page and then figure out how to successfully break curfew.  And, somehow along the way he discovers boarding school is not the banishment he thought it would be.  A GREAT adventure for elementary school readers. ~Lisa Christie

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – In a faraway land, a nobleman purchases four orphans in a scheme to place one, and only one of them, on the throne as the long-lost Prince Jaron. The catch, the three not chosen will probably not survive the “training”.  When you add a clever housemaid as a friend, a castle with secret passageways and the fact discovery of the scheme can have them all killed for treason, you have another great adventure for elementary school readers and the adults who love them. The False Prince has been published as the first installment of the Ascendance Trilogy, even though I just finished this one, I am ready for part two.  ~Lisa Christie   

For Middle Schoolers

 Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt (2011) – One of the few sequels I have liked better than the original and I really liked the original – Wednesday Wars.  In this stunning novel,  Doug Swieteck and his family move to upstate New York. Completely awed by his hero, Yankee baseball player Joe Pepitone, and trying valiantly to be nothing like his abusive, often drunken father, Doug has a lot to overcome: new school, his brother is serving in Vietnam, and a few secrets.  Honestly, this was one of the best books I read (kid or adult) in 2011. ~Lisa Christie

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle (August 2012) – A romantic novel for teens involving Shakespeare, time travel and true love. ~Lisa Christie

Now for some paperbacks, because when you fall asleep reading with a flashlight you don’t want it to hurt when the book hits your chest.

 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999) – Recently re-“read” as an audio book with my two sons. We all loved the characters and laughed out loud a lot during this touching novel of the depression-era Flint, Michigan. The story unfolds through the eyes of Bud, not Buddy, a child on the run from his latest foster home. I loved listening to a strong audio narrator of this superb novel by an award-winning author. I also loved reading it long ago when it was first published. Enjoy! ~Lisa Christie

 

The Danger Box by Blue Balliett (2011) – This book is amazing. It has an awesome narrator – a legally blind boy who was left on the doorstep of his paternal grandparents’ home when he was an infant. His family struggles to make ends meet, but they have love, a junk store, a lot of amazingly unique bits of wisdom and a town library to end all libraries. And yes, it is at the library where he makes his very first ever friend and has the adventure of a lifetime involving Darwin’s journals, a British Museum, his father, creating a newspaper and so much more.  And it all happens over the course of one summer – really it does. ~Lisa Christie

 The Jaguar Stones: Middleworld by Jon and Pamela Voelkel – The first of series in which a middle schooler must save his parents who have been abducted while on an archeological mission in Central America. The third book in this series will greet any new fans at summer’s end as it is out in September. ~Lisa Christie

Bonus: Adult “Camping” fare:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012).  This book will have readers itching to pack up their hiking boots and set out on an adventure. “Wild” is not only the excellent story of the author’s summer-long trek along the Pacific Coast Trail at age twenty-six, but it is also a wonderfully crafted piece of writing. Strayed, brazenly and amazingly unprepared, sets off from a trail head in southern California with no hiking experience and without ever having weighed her backpack, but with plenty of pluck, spunk, and determination. Strayed, now in her mid-forties, honestly tells of her long walk and of the complex workings of her inner-landscape at the time.  This is a gratifying read that is full of emotional and physical challenges and rewards, interesting characters, beautiful scenery, and sore feet – and of growing muscles in both body and spirit. ~Lisa Cadow

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